Saturday, 18 October 2008

The Cheap-Arse Film Review #2- "CAMP BLOOD"

NAME: CAMP BLOOD

RATING: 18

RELEASED: 1999

WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: BRAD SYKES

STARRING: JENNIFER RITCHKOFF, MICHAEL TAYLOR, TIM YOUNG, BETHANY ZOLT, COURTNEY TAYLOR

GENRE: SLASHER HORROR

BOUGHT FROM: POUNDLAND

PRICE: £1.00 (DUH)

It was not good sign when the main menu of this disc managed to piss me off. I put the film in my player, sat through the opening title
cards, and up it came. A half-way decent looking menu, too. So, I didn't see any of the four onscreen options highlighted, so I started pressing the up and down buttons on my remote so that I could see where it was.

I didn't see anything.

Okay, no problem, my player was obviously having a brain-fart and not showing the cursor, I thought. It's done this before, and it's a problem that's easily fixed, usually just by turning it off and on. So I did this, waited until the menu came back...


... and still nothing.

At this point I was starting to get a bit annoyed, thinking that maybe the disc was defective and I'd end up having to bin a movie without even reviewing it, but I decided to persevere. There had to be something I was missing. So, I moved so that my face was right up close to my TV, as close as you'd put it as a kid when your Mum would tell you to move back otherwise you'd get square eyes, and again started pressing the up and down buttons.

That's when I saw it.


The cursor was on screen. The words did become highlighted. They just became highlighted in the palest hint of yellow I had ever seen. It was almost imperceptible to the naked eye. Then I clicked to start the movie, and found that it then turns to an equally-slight shade of baby blue.

How can you do that? How can you screw up the main menu for your DVD so badly? Here's a hint to anybody looking to put out independent
DVDs- MAKE YOUR MENUS EASY TO NAVIGATE. I mean, yellow? Blue? This is a horror movie. What's wrong with, say... BRIGHT RED? And when you actually select something, what's wrong with having it turn, I don't know... A DARKER SHADE OF RED? And I know there are people out there reading this who are saying, "Well, maybe you've got the colour and/or brightness settings on your TV too low. Maybe if you turn them up, you'll be able to see it better." And maybe I do. But that's not the point, the point is, I don't have to alter the way I have my TV set up in order to know what I'm doing on the menus of any of my other DVDs. So why should I have to make a special case for this one? The answer is, I shouldn't.

I can't believe I've written this much and not even got onto the actual movie yet. This is going to be the longest review ever.

The film opens with two bird watchers walking through a forest, one of whom is played by easily one of the sleeziest-looking men I have ever laid eyes on. The woman babbles about birds for a little bit, notices the guy staring at her arse, they exchange cringeworthy
flirty dialogue ("You're supposed to be looking at birds, not me." "Can't I do both?"), before they launch into...

... actually, I don't know what to call it. I'm loathed to call it a sex scene, because at no point do either of them make any attempt to remove the bottom half of their clothing. I don't even want to call it a dry humping scene, because neither of them really move around that much. We do, however, see boobies. Well, one pair anyway, but
it's a good pair, which is the only thing this scene (and in many ways, this movie) has going for it. This goes on forever. At one point she is literally straddling the cameraman, rubbing her chest and reaching down as if to stroke his cheek. In many ways it took me back to when Channel 5 launched and this sort of thing was the height of erotica. Needless to say, shortly after this, both are dispatched with by The Clown from Slipknot. I'm not joking, that's exactly what he is, just in a gark gray jumpsuit as opposed to an orange one. And that's another thing...

... can we possibly have break from horror movies that have some
form of a clown as it's main Big Bad? At this point it's like, okay, we get it, clowns are fucking creepy. Can we move on now, please? We don't have to go too far, we can stay within the circus if you'd like. How about a seris of films about a killer lion tamer? Just imagine it- young busty girl, home alone, scared, she hears a noise, looks around the house, finds nothing, creepy music swells, she turns around, and BOOM! LION IN THE FUCKING FACE! Money, I tell you.

So, after this, we're finally introduced to the main characters/sacrificial lambs of this piece. You've met them before- there's the timid woman who doesn't think this is a good idea (we know this because she reads about the missing girl in the paper and I think straight up says, "I don't think this is a good idea"), her bland boyfriend who does because he thinks it'll be good for their strained relationship (which didn't seem so strained five minutes ago when they started fucking in the shower, in a scene where we don't see the woman's breasts, which leads me to believe she's
related to the director in some way), his arsehole of a friend (who we are shown is an arsehole when he bitches out another driver and then proceeds to go through the entire movie barely uttering a line that isn't in some way hostile to someone), and his spoilt, bratty girlfriend (who we know is spoilt and bratty because she takes a huge case she can barely carry camping, and also dares to take pride in her appearence). Note how I'm not mentioning any names here. I'm doing that for two reasons- 1) it really doesn't matter what these people are called, they're drawn with such broad brushstrokes that their names may as well be Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy, and 2) and this quite a serious issue...

... I barely know who these characters are. And I'm not talking about the film not showing me their hopes and dreams and what they aspire to be before The Reaper comes for them, I mean I barely know
their names. I'm an aspiring screenwriter ("aspiring" meaning mostly that I talk alot about it at parties so people will find me interesting). I've never had a film made, I may never have a film made, but even I know that one of the first things you should do is get the names of your characters into the heads of the audience as soon as humanly possible. This starts off alright. We're not given the names of the two birdwatchers until the very end, but even by slasher standards they're just meat, so that doesn't matter. We also find out that the name of the main male lead's character really quickly, as his name's actually the first line of dialoge spoken by the the main female lead's character. She literally shouts the name "STEVE!" into his face as he pulls back the shower curtain before stepping in. After that, though, is where it starts to get noticable. The next scene has two people in it, and is intercut with a scene with another person in it by way of a phone call. When the scene starts, I can only name one of the people on my television. When it ends, I can still only name on of the people on my television. Sykes doesn't think to have any of the characters here refer to each other by name, not one single time. He does, however, have the Arsehole Friend drop the name of his girlfriend, "Nicole." So, you're seeing fit to name characters that aren't even in this scene, but I have no idea what the name is of that character that's currently talking? That boys and girls is a perfect example of bad writing. Infact, it get worse; we don't actually get the name of the main female lead's character ("Tricia") until we're over 15 minutes into the movie and she's been in 4 scenes, 3 of them dialogue heavy, and, I'm not making this up, we don't get a clearly audible mention of the secondary male lead's character's name ("Jay") until we are over 31 minutes into this movie, this 72 minute movie. Including credits. I know what probably happened, the guy's writing the script and, because he's writing character's names down every time they say a line of dialogue, he's forgot to actually put those names into people's mouths. I've made the same mistake a few times with my writing, but the difference here is, I've never filmed anything. At some point, somebody should have realised that a mistake had been made and fixed it on the fly. How hard would it have been to have had somebody just say someone's name in an early scene? It's even more unforgivable when you take into account the fact that they did do this with a few characters, including the crazy old man who tells them to stay away from Camp Blood, who says his own name within thirty seconds of being on screen ("Thatcher"). All this tells me is that people weren't paying attention, or were and just didn't care enough.

So anyway, they meet up with their guide, get to the camp, there's some making out, some horseplay on a swing and some shots of The Clown From Slipknot seemingly riding a bicycle. It's all basically just killing time until Killing Time, which starts the second they step out their tents on the second day to find their guide has
been supposedly barbequed. Cue lots of screaming, infighting, some vomiting and some truly ludicrous assumption ("IT WAS THE CLOWN!" "THIS IS A GAME TO HIM!"). If you're thinking this will build to The Clown From Slipknot toying with them in an evil, cerebral manner, separating them and then killing them all one-by-one, well, you'd be wrong. Here's what he actually does- HE COMES RUNNING AT THEM FROM OUT OF THE UNDERGROWTH. And then gets PUNCHED IN THE FUCKING FACE, BEFORE LEGGING IT. I laughed so fucking hard. It was at this point that I looked at the timer on my player to see that this movie only had around 20 minutes left. 20 minutes to kill at least three people? This is going to rule.

So things go at a breakneck pace from here... Steve heads off in hot pursuit of The Clown From Slipknot... there's an awesomely bad knife-fight that words can't do justice to, with sound effects for the knife swings and punches straight out of the 50's, and at one
point a slow-motion effect that's just that thing you can do with your camcorder that makes it skip every other frame... Steve bites the big one, and it's difficult to feel for a guy who decided to chase after the known killer with the really big knife rather than take this opportunity to flee for his life... Nicole is kidnapped when The Clown From Slipknot just casually walks up to the group from behind when they're fighting... we get this movie's loan fairly creative kill, when Jay accidently stabs Nicole himself when she sneaks up behind him having somehow escaped. In a better movie, this would actually have been a great moment. As it is, it's just alright.... Jay gets a good, old-fashioned neck-snapping... Thatcher from right at the beginning is shown to be in league with The Clown From Slipknot... Tricia manages to save herself by GRABBING THE BLADE OF THE KNIFE WITH HER BARE HAND (and hardly making out like it hurt, either), and then the film becomes the most obvious rip-off of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" you've ever seen. She's literally running down the street covered in blood, screaming, with the killer making chase and swinging his weapon. All that's missing is the "BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ" sound-effect. It all comes to to a glorious climax though, as Thatcher runs over The Most Obvious Dummy You've Ever Seen Dressed Like The Clown From Slipknot, before getting hacked to death. It's then revealed that the killer was the guide all along.

OR WAS IT? Well... I dunno. The ending really doesn't make any sense, and makes less sense due to the fact that all three of
the other main cast members return to play THREE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CHARACTERS. I really don't feel like going into it, I think I've written far too much about this film already, and I'm not even done yet.

From a technical standpoint, this film is bad, although I'm not sure I'd say it looks or sounds as bad as "We've Got The Toaster" did. That's gifting it with faint praise, as the best way you could describe the production value here is cheap and nasty. There's one scene set around a camp fire where the story of The Clown From Slipknot it told (girlfriend fucks around on him, he goes insane, he kills them both, starts wearing a clown mask for some absurd reason), where the sounds of the crickets and general forest wild
life go up and down depending on who's talking. The effects aren't good, but I will actually say they were trying, and the first killing of the movie, where the guy gets stabbed through the chest and the blade comes out through his back, is not too bad. It's hard to pass comment on the acting too, as nobody is given anything to really sink their teeth into beyond their expected cliches. I suppose the best I can say is I was never embarrassed by anyone, even though I was occasionally embarrassed for them.

There are also some really major logic and continuity errors that should be mentioned. In the scene where the group meet up with their guide and discover it's a woman named Harris (yeah, the killer ends up being a woman, despite looking like a heavy-set man and having
the strength to snap people's necks with a flick of the wrist), Jay is all, "You're Harris?" and even says that he wouldn't have hired her if he knew she was a woman, but then he also says during the exchange that he spoke to her on the phone. So, he spoke to her on the phone, but couldn't tell she was a woman? That must have been a terrible connection. There's some really massive, noticable and confusing things that come out of the two birdwatchers being killed at the beginning. For a start, the newspaper mentions that the woman is missing, but makes no mention of the man. Was he just so smarmy people didn't care what happened to him? Also, and this is the big one, less than ten minutes into the film, the woman's carved-up, barely alive body is discovered by two hunters. Let me get this straight, she was missing long enough for it to make the papers just in time to scare Tricia before she and her friends make the trip to Camp Blood themselves, but not long enough for her to, y'know, BLEED TO DEATH? It's also mentioned that her car was found near the forest, so the area was presumably searched, but they didn't find this poor woman crying and bleeding out in the middle of a fucking stream? WAT?

But in the end, none of this matters. I could have saved myself the effort of writing all that. Because in the end, this film could have looked great, had award-worthy performances and been written by The Bard himself, and it still would have failed, for one simple
reason...

... it's not scary. Not for a second. There's no suspense, there's not a moment when you want to cover your eyes, there's not even a moment when you jump a bit. Part of this is becase it's mostly
filmed outside during the day, probably to save money on lighting, but I think it's mostly because it was written and directed by a man who doesn't understand what scary is. He seems to think it's blood and screaming. I bet he's a ball at parties.

The only real extra on offer here is a trailer. I usually think the trailer is the most useless extra on the entire disc, but this one, believe it or not, if fabulous- it's the entire film condensed down into just over a minute. Every kill (including an absolutely hilarious decapitation), every lame line of dialogue, every scream, all capped off by an incredibly disinterested narrator intoning towards the end, "Due to the graphic nature of this film, no persons under the age of 17 will be permitted to wear 3D glasses." How fantastic is that? This was so good, it was almost enough to save this disc...

FINAL VERDICT

BINNED!
... Almost. The nicest thing I can say about this movie is that it's not the worst I've ever seen. But it's high up in the top 5, that's for fucking sure.

Before I go, I want to share with you the only other amusing thing that came out of purchasing this shitty, shitty movie. I was at the counter at Poundland, when the nice, elderly lady who was working the till saw the movie I was buying and jokingly asked, "And how old are you, young man?"

Suddenly, I found myself mentally transported back to the days when I would go down to my local video shop and try it on with the owners, even though they had my age on their computers and I knew for a fact I wasn't getting anywhere with it. So, do you know what I answered?

"Ay... eighteen."

She looked at me very strange.

I'm 25.

Until next time, I'm The Cheap-Arse Film Reviewer, and I am a Golden God.

2 comments:

The Lam said...

You're experience with the main menu had my belly-aching with laughter. Also, the picture you took of the DVD in the garbage is classic.

I think they ripped the title right off of the Friday the 13th series. I believe in Part VI: Jason Lives, it was the first time someone dubbed Camp Crystal Lake as 'Camp Blood'.

The Cheap-Arse Film Reviewer said...

Thanks for the comment.

It wouldn't surprise me to find out that they just totally ripped off the title, because there's not a single original thing about this film. At every point, it wants to be a better, more well-known movie, and utterly fails.